Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Brogue

15th November

The Brogue

Standing in the queue in St Paul’s bookshop I glanced at the watch of the young, bearded assistant. It was nearly four o’clock. I hurriedly paid for the books, packed them in my rucksack, careful not to damage the precious item at the bottom, which I’d wrapped so mindfully before leaving home and ran through twilight streets, down the steps to the Underground in Victoria.  I’d never heard of Boston Manor Tube station, but Google informed me it was on the Piccadilly line and is one of six Ealing tube stations.  Having no idea how long my journey would take, I wanted to leave enough time so I wouldn’t be late meeting my granddaughter.  She said her lectures finished at six and it would then take a few minutes to get to me.

Reaching my destination, I held back, walking behind the busy throng.   With more than an hour to spare I dawdled, stepping purposefully out into autumn darkness. What to do now? I could walk up and down for an hour - good practice for the Camino Way I hope to do next year. But, no, my rucksack was digging a valley into my shoulders, I was cold and I wasn’t wearing the right shoes.

Trudging through a crisp carpet of crimson and saffron, a beautiful mosaic tint of autumn, I searched for a cafe.   A faint scent of last week’s bonfire hung in the air, clung now to my coat with the evening mist, evoking memories of my father with hot potatoes and sparklers and my sister’s faces dancing in the shadowed flames rising from the bonfire.  I walked on, through the howling frenzy of red and gold, finding, not far away, a small row of shops. The cafe with its all - glass front, it’s brightly lit interior  and three suspicious looking youths, dressed in hoodies and huddled around the counter, didn’t encourage me in. On I walked.

Then, there it was. It’s not something I’d normally do and I had to dig deep for courage that day. Slowly, I walked outside the stone wall. It reminded me of that other stone wall opposite my grandmother’s cottage in Ireland, where I’d fallen into a patch of stinging nettles when I was ten.

Back and forth I strolled, outside this Irish pub, stretching up to peer through frosted windows. It’s name, The Brogue, gave me a warm feeling of family and ancestors.
Eventually, a man burst through the door and stood holding it open while he argued with someone on his phone, giving me chance to glimpse inside. The dim light and anonymous atmosphere went a little way to calm my nerves and when he went back in I followed close behind.  He was the only person, the barman nowhere to be seen.  I stood, shifting from foot to foot, wondering whether to speak, then blurted out,                                                                                                                                                 "Do you have to ring a bell or something?” he turned round suddenly and I tried to give him a warm smile.                                                                                                      “Ah, he’s probably outside, I’ll get him” he said and walked out leaving me stood still and alone, in the empty pub. The music played, but nothing moved and I was rooted to the spot.

They both rushed back in together                                                                                                “What can I do for you?” the barman placed his vape by the till.  When I asked him if I could get a coffee he was taken aback and wavered a bit saying there was a cafe down the road. I told him I didn’t like the look of it.  It was then I spied the small kettle hidden in the corner.

I took my coat off and sat, undisturbed on the sofa by a heater and warmed through for the first time that day. Another customer came in and I could hear the conversation get rather animated as they discussed the Trump victory and the bets they’d placed over it.

He charged me £1 for the coffee, serving it with milk he had to go to the cafe for and a chocolate biscuit from his own tin.  Bargain! Maybe I’ll pop in again sometime.

Refreshed I went back to Boston Manor station to meet my granddaughter and she took me to her halls of residence. Sitting on her bad, I unpacked my rucksack and carefully brought out the package. It took a while for her to unravel the material and bubble wrap to reveal the statue that was once chipped with its paint flaking, and was now beautifully restored to its former delight. She cried tears of thankfulness and joy, which I promised to relay to her granddad as he’d done such a good  job of making it new. 


1 comment :

  1. What a wonderful story! I was delighted that the barkeeper would provide you with coffee and cream and a biscuit too! That's the kind of person I want to know, the one that acts from his heart instead of the harshness of today's world. Even without knowing the story behind the repaired statue I can tell just from your tale that it meant a great deal to the granddaughter. What a kind thing to do!


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